A Day in the Life at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jennifer received her bachelor’s degree in English and History from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and her master’s degree in Higher Education & Student Affairs from Ohio State University. She is currently a tutor in Austin specializing in writing, literature, and clarinet, among other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Jennifer: The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is nestled in the Pioneer Valley. This large campus is near several other colleges (Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke) and has great, free, public transportation throughout the county. When I was in school, I did not have a car and was able to get to class, the grocery store, the movies, and my friend’s apartments safely and quickly on the busses. The campus core is well lit at nights, and there are always people around, so I felt safe after night classes.

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Jennifer: Depending on your major, or the course, professors and academic advisors are accessible. In my first year, I was undeclared, so I had to schedule an academic advising session. Once I declared English, my advisor was assigned and we met regularly. Faculty are good about creating opportunities to work on projects with them too.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Jennifer: I lived on campus for two years, and it was a lot of fun. My residence hall had learning communities, so I was placed with other people who shared similar interests and classes. In fact, as part of my Learning Community, a few of my classes were in my residence hall – which was really nice in the winter! Dining is buffet style at most of the dining halls so you can choose what you like to eat (and how much). There are also café-style options at the Union. Getting involved in student organizations can be tricky at first because the campus is pretty big, but I met a lot of people through my Learning Community and music classes.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Jennifer: I studied English and History because I liked the flexibility of choosing my own course plan. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst was great in substituting course requirements in these majors, and allowing me to take classes at other colleges that I found interesting.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Jennifer: It was easy to make friends because I sought out student organizations. I joined marching band, and met over 400 people before classes even started. Having a common interest helped break the ice for sure. Greek life is active at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, but definitely didn’t drive the entire campus.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Jennifer: I used the Career Center to help apply for graduate schools. They advised me on my applications, resumes, and planning for interviews. My application process required me to travel to other colleges, but the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was helpful in preparing me before these visits.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Jennifer: The W.E.B DuBois library underwent major construction and renovations while I was in school. There are a ton of study spaces for individual and group projects. My friends and I would stay at the library several nights a week because it is near the Union and had all the resources we needed to do our homework. There are over 20 floors, so it is easy to find a quiet space if you need.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Jennifer: Amherst is a small town with a few restaurants and shops, while Hadley and North Hampton are pretty accessible by bus and car. There are many music performances, theater, sporting events, and festivals on or near campus to keep you busy. I would often go out to eat at one of the local restaurants, and never felt like I couldn’t afford a nice meal.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Jennifer: The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is one of the biggest campuses in the state. With that said, I had a few classes with over 300 students, but 90 percent of my classes were under 15. There were generally enough sections of a class so students could get individual attention from the professors.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Jennifer: I joined the marching band so I could continue playing saxophone in school and make friends right away. During the football playoffs, almost everyone was watching the games. When the team won the semi-finals, everyone was cheering and celebrating – and then we found out that the band would get to travel to National Championships with the team. This was a great way to end my senior year with the band and have a lasting memory from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Check out Jennifer’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.